About delegation

Why not reading the memos doesn’t count as acting like a CEO.

If, as his flatterers insist, George W. Bush’s Presidential style is that of a corporate CEO, it seems to me that the firm is in desperate need of a shareholder revolt. Putting aside the moment my view that most of the things he wants to accomplish are evil, it’s pretty clear that the place simply isn’t being very well manged right now.

There’s a book by an actual, and quite successful CEO — High Output Management, by Andrew Grove of Intel’s glory days — that gives at least one hint of the cause of the massive incompetence that has led to such misterable failure. Grove discusses the central importance of delegation: letting other people actually make decisions. (That’s the lesson that Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton never adequately learned.)

But Grove defines “delegation” to mean assignment of authority and monitoring of process and results. “Delegation without monitoring,” says Grove, is abdication.”

Abdication is delegation for the lazy. I know; I practice it myself. Sometimes the results are spectacular, and sometimes they’re spectacu-lousy. That’s one of the many reasons I wouldn’t hire me to run a hot-dog stand.

So when the President tries to weasel out of responsibility for the torture of prisoners by saying he never read the memos, he’s describing not delegation but abdication.

Hey, I hear there’s a shareholder meeting coming up in November.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

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